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11.+ 2 Cor. ii. 1o, II.
+ Morning Sermon.
* Morning Sermons.
devote our Sunday afternoons to the exposition throughout bo of some one Book of Scripture, and our plan has been to take
a Book of the Old and of the New Testament. I have selected for our present exposition the Epistles to the Corinthians, and this for several reasons-amongst others, for variety, our previous work having been entirely historical.* These Epistles are in a different tone altogether : they are eminently practical, rich in Christian casuistry. They contain the answers of an inspired Apostle to many questions which arise in Christian life.
There is too, another reason for this selection. The state of the Corinthian Church resembles, in a remarkable degree, the state of the Church of this Town in the present day, There is the same complicated civilization; the religious quarrels and differences of sect are alike; the same questions agitate society; and the same distinctions of class exist now as then. For the heart of Humanity is the same in all times.
* The Book of Genesis.
The principles therefore, which St. Paul applied to the Corinthian questions, will apply to those of this time. The Epistles to the Corinthians are a witness that Religion does not confine itself to the inward being of man alone, nor solely to the examination of orthodox opinions. No! Religion is Life, and right instruction in Religion is not the investigation of obsolete and curious doctrines, but the application of spiritual principles to those questions, and modes of action, which concern present existence, in the Market, the Shop, the Study, and the Street.
Before we can understand these Epistles, it is plain that we must know to whom, and under what circumstances, they were written, how the writer himself was circumstanced, and how he had been prepared for such a work by previous discipline. We make therefore,
I. Preliminary inquiries respecting Corinth, viewed historically, socially, and morally.
II. Respecting the Apostle Paul.
We all know that Corinth was a Greek city, but we must not confound the town to which St. Paul wrote with that ancient Corinth which is so celebrated, and with which we are so familiar in Grecian history. That Corinth had been destroyed nearly two centuries before the time of these Epistles, by the Consul Mummius, B.C. 146. This new city, in which the Apostle laboured, had been built upon the ruins of the old by Julius Cæsar, not half a century before the Christian Church was formed there. And this rebuilding had taken place under very different circumstances—so different as to constitute a new population.
Greece, in the time of the Roman dictators, had lost her vigour. She had become worn out, corrupt, and depopulated. There were not men enough to supply her armies. It was
necessary therefore, if Corinth were to rise again, to people it with fresh inhabitants, and to reinvigorate her constitution with new blood. This was done from Rome. Julius Cæsar sent to his re-erected city freedmen of Rome, who themselves, or their parents, had been slaves. From this importation there arose at once one peculiar characteristic of the new population. It was Roman, not Greek; it was not aristocratic, but democratic; and it held within it all the vices as well as all the advantages of a democracy.
Observe the peculiar bearing of this fact on the Epistles to the Corinthians. It was only in such a city as Corinth that those public meetings could have taken place, in which each one exercised his gifts without order; it was only in such a city that the turbulence and the interruptions and the brawls which we read of, and which were so eminently characteristic of a democratic society, could have existed.
It was only in such a community that the parties could have been formed which marked the Christian Church there; where private judgment, independence, and general equality existed, out of which parties had to struggle, by dint of force and vehemence, if they were to have any prominence at all. Thus there were in Corinth the advantages of a democracy; such for instance, as unshackled thought: but also its vices, when men sprang up crying, “I am of Paul, and I of Apollos."
Again, the population was not only democratic, but commercial. This was necessitated by the site of Corinth. The neck of land which connects northern and southern Greece had two ports, Cenchreä on the east, and Lechæum on the west, and Corinth lay between either seaboard. Thus all merchandise from north to south necessarily passed there, and all ommerce from east to west flowed through it also, for the other way round the Capes Malea and Tænarum (Matapan) was both longer and more dangerous for heavily laden ships. Hence it was not by an imperial fiat, but by natural circumstances, that